Subscribe now

Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland, Jr

By John Newton
September 2010 | Review by Robert Strivens


The reader will discover afresh in these letters, not only mature and wise counsel, but a wholesome emphasis on true Christian experience, a great breadth of Christian sympathy, and a strong confidence in the power of the grace of God, for, as Newton said, 'Grace has long and strong arms!'

  • Publisher: Banner of Truth
  • ISBN: 978-1848710535
  • Pages: 429
  • Price: £8.99
Buy this book »

Book Review

This volume brings together 83 letters from John Newton to John Ryland Jr most of which have not been previously published. The editor, Grant Gordon, has done a great deal of successful detective work to discover these documents which shed a fascinating light on the Anglican minister and his long-lived friendship with his Baptist colleague.

Background information is given to each letter, and further notes give detailed facts about references in the letters which might otherwise be obscure to today’s readers. Occasionally more explanation about theological issues would have been helpful. For example, in the first letter Ryland makes intriguing comments on the subject of justification which would have been interesting to explore.

The content of this valuable collection consists of classic Newton ‘wise counsel’ on a wide array of subjects — publishing, marriage, how best to handle (or avoid) doctrinal controversy, how to deal with second-hand allegations against preachers, involvement in politics and a host of other topics.

Newton has touching and comforting words on Ryland’s wife’s last illness and death (letters 37, 38) and subsequently advises Ryland on re-marriage, encouraging such a step (letter 42). He writes movingly of the death of his own wife (letter 49).

There is a troubling description of the difficulties that Ryland experienced in his church in Northampton with hyper-Calvinists, including William Huntington (letters 51, 52).

Newton described his aims in his London ministry, besides ‘preaching the salvation of God to sinners’, as (letter 29) inculcating ‘peace and love among those who are upon the one foundation’ and insisting ‘much upon the life of God in the soul’.

On the Christian’s involvement in politics, he advises (letter 16): ‘let the dead bury the dead; to mourn for what they cannot help, and to ply the throne of grace as the best and most effectual method of serving their country’.

On disagreements between high and moderate Calvinists, he seeks peace: ‘Good men, must, at bottom, mean the same thing’ (letter 36). He is suspicious about disagreements where the parties are ‘fighting not merely for truth but for victory…whereas if they would explain and qualify there is perhaps a medium point, in which they might meet at once and be at peace’ (letter 45).

Newton writes clearly, simply and directly. His letters will repay anyone who peruses them with help, comfort and an abundance of ‘wise counsel’.

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Understanding Suicide and Euthaniasia – A Contemporary and Biblical Perspective
Eryl Davies

It is with sensitivity and a pastoral heart that Eryl Davies addresses these complex and controversial issues. Statistics alone demand that a biblical perspective is given to these topics. In 1969, an estimated 51% of the UK population was in…

See all book reviews
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock

These three punchy books address pressing issues: what the Bible teaches about lust (on desire), about homosexuality (on Biblical sexuality) and about transgenderism (on identity). The trilogy approach keeps each book short and focused while dovetailing effectively. Each book has…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
A Beginner’s Guide To Church History
Philip Parsons

This book is a must-read for every Christian, which covers a wide period from the apostolic age to the church under Communism. There are numerous excellent works on church history, like Philip Schaff’s eight volumes, or Andrew Miller’s three volumes,…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Who Am I? Human Identity and the Gospel in a Confusing World
Thomas Fretwell

In today’s secular society, religion is often regarded as without rational or scientific basis, and therefore irrelevant to life in the modern world and all areas of public engagement. If that is our social context, then it is no wonder…